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Board Recommends Landmark Designation For Terrace Plaza Hotel

Boston Public Library
Creative Commons
A postcard depicts an early representation of the Terrace Plaza Hotel.

After more than an hour of discussion and public comments, the Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board is recommending landmark designation status for the Terrace Plaza Hotel.The issue goes next to the City Planning Commission and then a vote by City Council.

Conservation board members were tasked with deciding if the Terrace Plaza Hotel, considered a historic Modernist structure, should officially be labeled significant. The final vote was 5-1, though three of the six members present voiced concerns about what the designation could mean.

"The preservation of this building is the desirable outcome. The question is are we layering on obstacles that ... forces it out of possible use," worried Chair Tim Voss.

Two other board members echoed Voss' sentiment, questioning if the designation would "handicap" any future redevelopment, making it less desirable or more difficult for an owner to do something with the facility.

Supporters want the designation because it ensures the building's facade won't be dramatically altered during any future renovations.The International Style facade is defined by its seven-story solid brick wraparound.

The building has been almost entirely empty for about 10 years and has fallen into disrepair. Cincinnati is pursuing the owners, which purchased the building last year, for various violations and fines.

The current owners, JNY Capital, oppose the designation. Speaking on their behalf, attorney Brad Kaplan sought to reassure board members that the owners do not intend "to penetrate the brick facade" or demolish the building.

"They just purchased the building in August and they haven't finalized their development plan," Kaplan says. "To have a designation layered, which is really a zoning limitation, would tie their hands in terms of the development."

Kaplan also stated JNY inherited the building's various violations and is in the process of trying to rectify the problems.

Supporter Patrick Snadon, professor emeritus with UC's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, spoke in favor of the designation. "The Terrace Plaza Hotel, though currently unrecognized as such, is one of the three most important 20th century buildings in Cincinnati, the other two being Union Terminal and the Carew Tower Netherland Plaza hotel complex."

As several conservation board members stated their concerns about limiting the building's future, member Allison McKenzie stated several times that was beyond the purview of what they were being asked to decide.

"It is not our role in this process to be concerned with the economics" she said. "Our role is to determine the significance of this building. This building is clearly significant, not only in Cincinnati but in architectural history of the entire country and possibly the world based on the number of firsts that it contains."

Paul Muller with the Cincinnati Preservation Association was pleased with the outcome. "We're thrilled that the building has local landmark designation moving forward."

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.